As Sen. Obama has been busy making major pronouncements about Iraq, Sen. McCain has not been one to be outdone. You may have read Sen. Obama’s New York Times op-ed, and as you also probably know Senator Obama gave a "major speech" in D.C. putting Iraq in a "wider national security context".
Not much here is new — this is part of an effort to reiterate his positions — but it’s interesting to track what he is saying. The issue we’ve been watching the most is his policy of leaving behind a "residual force" in Iraq, which some observers say could number in the tens of thousands. Sen. Obama has repeated his commitment to a timeline for withdrawal to be implemented on his first day in office, but he has not yet backed away from his support for a residual force to "perform specific missions in Iraq". It’s pretty much the very Obama position we’ve been working to improve a along in our campaign, "No Soldier Left Behind."
To achieve that success, I will give our military a new mission on my first day in office: ending this war. Let me be clear: we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 – one year after Iraqi Security Forces will be prepared to stand up; two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, we’ll keep a residual force to perform specific missions in Iraq: targeting any remnants of al Qaeda; protecting our service members and diplomats; and training and supporting Iraq’s Security Forces, so long as the Iraqis make political progress.
You can also check out his CNN exclusive interview on Iraq with Fareed Zakaria.
And from Sen. McCain, again, no surprises:
Sen. Obama will tell you we can’t win in Afghanistan without losing in Iraq. In fact, he has it exactly backwards. It is precisely the success of the surge in Iraq that shows us the way to succeed in Afghanistan. It is by applying the tried and true principles of counter-insurgency used in the surge — which Sen. Obama opposed — that we will win in Afghanistan. With the right strategy and the right forces, we can succeed in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
He’s sticks to Bush’s message that changing our strategy in Iraq means losing in Iraq, and that the surge, which failed to create any political progress in Iraq, was a "success."